There have been several reports in local media regarding changes to the City of Evanston’s enforcement of housing standards, specifically concerning multiple occupancy and illegal alterations to residential units. The City has no plan to change its enforcement strategy today or in the future. There has been discussion in the press that on July 1, 2011 the City will change this strategy. This statement is incorrect. 

The City of Evanston has enforced these laws regularly through the years and will continue to do so to protect the safety of occupants and neighborhood residents. The City’s enforcement strategy to ensure community safety does not include the eviction of occupants.  Rather, the City has a long history of working with landlords to resolve City code violations. The only exception to this policy is if City staff observes a life safety threat so egregious that the resident(s) must be relocated for their own well being. 

The City of Evanston continues to experience an increase in resident-based complaints of too many people living in a single residential unit and illegally altered rental properties in violation of City Code. This is most prevalent in some of the city’s neighborhoods used heavily by college students for off-campus housing such as 173 recorded complaints in 2010 in the blocks east of Ridge Avenue between Noyes and Emerson Streets.

The Evanston City Code requires that no dwelling unit (single family, duplex, apartment etc.) shall be occupied by more than three (3) unrelated persons living together unless the landlord has a valid lodging establishment license. A lodging establishment is a dwelling unit that has obtained a special use permit from the City of Evanston and allows more than three (3) unrelated persons to live in the particular dwelling unit. To date no landlord has obtained such a special use permit in the City of Evanston.

All renters should be advised that when signing leases, landlords who do not have lodging establishment licenses cannot lawfully lease or permit subleases that would allow more than three (3) unrelated students / roommates in any dwelling unit. While the City of Evanston has no record of evictions based

on City code, if a lease or sublease violates the City Code a landlord may ultimately terminate a lease/sublease. 

The purposes of the City of Evanston Code for housing are to promote the life, safety and welfare of all our residents. Specifically:

  • To promote harmony in neighborhoods by insuring overcrowding does not occur;
    • To eliminate neighborhood blight and substandard housing
    • To ensure that all residents have a safe place to live 
    • To ensure that dwelling units are maintained in healthy, sanitary conditions
    • To ensure that neighborhoods are free of debris, illegally parked and stored vehicles
    • To provide decent affordable housing for all residents 

Recent examples of the City’s enforcement actions in 2010 that serve to protect the life, safety and welfare of our residents include:

  • A single family home that includes eight occupied sleeping rooms where the 3rd floor renovation provides no ingress / egress thru the main house.  Its only access is an outside ladder that is adjacent to the main electric service line.
    • A 2-unit duplex dwelling that has had illegal alterations, including a 4th bedroom in each dwelling unit. Both of the units were renovated with no building, electrical or safety inspections having been provided for any of the alterations. 
    • A 3-unit dwelling that was illegally altered with a bedroom that does not have access to the 1st floor dwelling unit and the main dwelling unit’s kitchen or bathroom.  The 2nd floor unit has 3 bedrooms, but not the required living room.
    • A single family home with two sleeping rooms illegally installed in the basement without any permits or safety, building or electrical inspections have been provided. The only egress for the two basement occupants is through a kitchen door with no emergency escape windows.

Many Evanston renters are students at Northwestern University.  The City and University work together on all aspects of off-campus housing.  This working relationship will continue.  Northwestern University provides advice and assistance to its students in this area and is available to help renter students when confronted with rental housing code compliance issues.  For further information from the City of Evanston on NU Off Campus Student Resources, go to the City’s website at

This is the official statement from the City of Evanston, no further comment available at this time.